Hackathons Are Great For Quantity But Are They Good Quality?

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The past 2 hackathons have been amazing successes for RIM from an app quantity perspective. The first hackathon generated 15,000 apps and the second has generated over 19,000 apps. With 34,000 apps from just 2 hackathons, RIM could keep this up throughout the lifetime of the platform and potentially surpass the competition just from this type of developer support. One would assume that the platform would also attract a base level of developer support and the hackathons are just icing on the cake. But are these apps really doing anything for the typical user? In some ways, the hackathons are not on-message with what Alec Saunders and RIM have said in the past. Saunders once said that RIM’s strength is quality over quantity but a quick look at the apps being submitted at these hackathons don’t seem to follow this mantra.

Remember when Alec said at BlackBerry DevCon Europe: “If we fill App World with garbage, then we’ve done ourselves and our users a disservice.”

The very nature of a hackathon dictates that your app will be small in scope and not as polished as it could be. It’s great if these hackathons are producing beta versions of apps that will be much bigger in scope and polished, but considering the incentive system RIM has in place, it’s likely that developers are just dipping their toes in the water and producing many small, unpolished apps.

Take for example, the developers AshishKumar.Org and Rudi Suriyanto that both come up in the “Recently Added” section of BlackBerry World. Both developers have submitted apps that could really be combined into a single app. We don’t know if these apps were submitted during a hackathon, but they’re definitely indicative of hackathon-style apps.

It’s hard to get a better idea of what apps have been submitted lately because RIM’s BlackBerry World doesn’t seem working the way it normally does. It’s not easy to browse to the “Newest Apps” section because it keeps directing users in a loop to the “Top Apps” section. Maybe RIM is trying to hide the latest submissions? Or perhaps it stems from the latest web bug we uncovered in BlackBerry World.

While the hackathons are a great idea and an excellent way to engage the users, it remains unclear whether it’s the best strategy for getting quality apps in the door. Perhaps the only way to do that is to sell millions of devices and convince the AAA development studios that the business case is there.